Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash
NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging legions of fans around the world into mourning. Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
Basketball icon Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Southern California, numerous outlets have reported. He was 41.
TMZ first reported Bryant's death. ABC News in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Times are among the entities that confirmed the death of the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar.
TMZ reported that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash. TMZ cited a family representative as the source.
Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said nobody survived the crash into a hill in Calabasas, which is approximately 30 miles west of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people were on the helicopter -- a pilot and eight passengers.
Villanueva declined to release identities, saying "it would be entirely inappropriate right now" before coroners go through their process.
Multiple entities reported that Kobe and Gianna were on their way to a basketball tournament in nearby Thousand Oaks.
The news of Bryant's death sent shockwaves through the sports world and beyond.
"The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.
"He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
"We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world."
Former president Barack Obama was among the hundreds of people weighing in on the tragedy.
"Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act," Obama said on Twitter. "To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
Orange Coast College announced that baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were among the people killed in the crash.
Alyssa Altobelli was a basketball teammate of Gianni Bryant. John Altobelli, 56, was entering his 28th season as the community college's baseball coach. He won four state championships and recorded his 700th career win last season.
"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," Orange Coast athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. "He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none -- he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy."
A fire broke out after the plane landed and emergency personnel responded but found no survivors, according to TMZ.
TMZ reported that eyewitnesses to the crash heard the helicopter sputtering before it went down.
Onlookers came to the scene and stared toward the hill as the brush was still smoldering. People were also gathering at Staples Center, the home of the Lakers, in downtown Los Angeles.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
After attending high school in suburban Philadelphia, Bryant was the 13th overall pick of the 1996 draft, selected by Charlotte, which traded his rights to the Lakers in exchange for center Vlade Divac. He spent the next 20 seasons in Los Angeles before retiring following the 2015-16 season.
Bryant won five NBA championships for the Lakers and amassed a number of accolades. He was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2007-08, a 15-time All-NBA selection, 18-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive team member. He twice was named MVP of the NBA Finals and was the All-Star Game MVP four times.
Bryant played in 1,346 career games and retired as the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points. On Saturday night, Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the all-time list when he scored 29 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant stands behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and James on the all-time list.
Bryant sent out a congratulatory tweet to James on Saturday night.
"Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother," Bryant tweeted.
On Jan. 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. It is the second-highest total in NBA history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain's famed 100-point game in 1962.
His final game was one for the ages as Bryant scored 60 points during a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016.
Bryant also won the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at age 18, the youngest to win the popular event.
Both numbers Bryant wore for the Lakers -- 8 and 24 -- were retired by the club.
He won Olympic gold medals for the United States in 2008 and 2012 and is among the candidates this year for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Reaction from the basketball world and beyond had a recurring theme -- disbelief over the news -- and one of those grieving was Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, a former teammate of Bryant's on the Lakers.
"There's no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW," O'Neal tweeted.
Tweeted former NBA star Dwyane Wade: "Nooooooooooo God please No!"
The sentiments continued all over Twitter.
Pau Gasol, a former Lakers teammate, expressed disbelief: "Beyond devastated... my big brother... I can't, I just can't believe it."
"I'm stunned. Words can't even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day," former Chicago Bulls star and NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen tweeted.
Tweeted Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love: "Please no. Please god no. It can't be true."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers expressed his somber thoughts prior to Sunday's road game with the Orlando Magic.
"The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him, knew him a long time," Rivers told reporters. "... He means a lot to me, obviously, he was such a great opponent, that's what you want in sports.
"He had that DNA that very few athletes could ever have, the Tiger Woods, the Michael Jordans. I was getting to know him more since he retired. ... Yeah, this is a tough one. We have to go play. The news is just so devastating for (his wife) Vanessa, and his family. Just so many people he touched."
Six years into his NBA career, in July 2003, a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado accused Bryant of rape, leading to his arrest. Bryant admitted to a sexual encounter with the woman but said the act was consensual.
When the woman declined to participate in the criminal case, the district attorney dropped the charges and he later settled a civil case out of court in 2005. Bryant did not admit guilt.
Bryant released a statement through his attorneys after the settlement:
"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. ... After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
After retirement, Bryant turned his focus to both business and entertainment. He won an Academy Award in the animated short category in 2018 for his work on "Dear Basketball," sharing it with Disney animator Glen Keane.
He also saw a $6 million investment he had made in sports drink BodyArmor turn into a $200 million windfall.
Before entering the NBA, Bryant was a star at Lower Merion High in the Philadelphia area and led the school to the 1996 state championship.
"Aces nation has lost its heartbeat," coach Gregg Downer said in a statement through the Lower Merion school district.
Director of school and community relations Amy Buckman read a statement from outside Kobe Bryant Gymnasium on the Lower Merion campus.
"The Lower Merion school district community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our most illustrious alumni in Kobe Bryant," Buckman said. "Mr. Bryant's connection to Lower Merion high school, where he played basketball prior to joining the NBA, has raised the profile of our high school and our district throughout the world. Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to his alma mater, including the dedication of our Kobe Bryant gymnasium and his support of our girls and boys basketball team."
A moment of silence was held before Sunday's game in Denver between the Nuggets and Houston Rockets. The public address announcer ended the tribute with "Rest In Peace, Mamba," referencing Bryant's nickname.
The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs began their game by letting the 24-second clock run out on both club's first possession, in honor of Bryant's No. 24.
Bryant was also honored outside of NBA circles as a moment of silence was held in his memory prior to a game between San Diego State and UNLV in Las Vegas.
Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, who played eight seasons with three teams from 1975-83. In 2001, he married Vanessa Laine, and they had four daughters: Natalia Diamante, 17; Gianna Maria-Onore, 13; Bianka Bella, 3; and Capri Kobe, born last June.